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In Sierra Leone, Children Must Not Serve As Bread Winners
By Aruna Turay
Jun 4, 2010, 17:10
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The universal definition of a child is someone below the age of eighteen years, entitled to such rights as care and protection, including the mandate on their parents and guardians and the government to give them decent education, social amenities moral guidance.

It is therefore totally unwarranted and illegal for parents and guardians to remain at home while they allow their children/wards to take to the streets to fend for themselves as well as the family, effectively transforming them to become breadwinners.

It is however sad to note that in Sierra Leone today, some poor homes rely on their children, especially the girls for the provision of the days meal. Certain of those parents and guardians may argue that it is as a result of unemployment that forces them to push their young siblings into the streets. Arguments proffered by many for the prevailing abject poverty in the country, like many other under-developed ones include uncontrolled birth rates. Though this invariably leads to poverty itself in several homes, the argument does not hold for many. In my candid opinion and I believe one held by many, the main advancement for parents to send their children in to the streets is out of ignorance and illiteracy. Ignorance principally is no respecter of pride, and in that vein, parents may feel that it is justifiable to use the children for their short term gains of feeding. Poverty on the other hand reduces the individual to think myopically, and in the process swallows his pride.

But at any rate and irrespective of prevailing circumstance, it is criminal, even if heads of families are hardly capable of providing for their homes, to send out their children on begging spree or petty jobs and prostitution for money just to keep the pot boiling.

This sad scenario which is mostly among provincial peoples and those dwelling slum communities in the cities is considered a blatant abuse of the childs rights and in total contravention of Part-III, Section 23, Sub-section 2 of the Child Rights Act 2007 which states as thus: "It shall be the primary responsibility of parents to provide support to their children in the enjoyment of the right".

Sadly enough, no adherence is given to that clause especially by adults engaged in construction, mining, trading and other activities where children are employed. Children as young as ten and twelve are most often seen engaged by their elders to carryout various kinds of miserable jobs. These include stone breaking, load carrying, selling of water and other menial jobs thus preventing them from going to school which is also in contravention of Part-III, Section 32, Sub-section 1 of the Child Rights Act which says that "no person shall subject a child to exploitative labour."

Sub-section 2 further defines labour as the exploitation of a child if it deprives the child of its health, education or development.

However, even though there are dozens of child rights advocacy agencies/organizations operating in Sierra Leone, yet little or nothing has been done to curb the abuse of childrens rights. It is therefore high time Sierra Leonean parent started getting awareness of the fact that children should not be regarded as breadwinners of their homes but deserve the right to be cared and catered for by their parents and guardians.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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